Week 14 Game Preview: Eagles look for important win over rival Cowboys

By JEFFREY WARNER
Staff Writer — jwarner@highhopesblog.com
_______

The Cowboys have made a huge turnaround under Jason Garrett, making Sunday that much tougher for the Eagles. (AP)

It’s Week 14 and the NFL spotlight is again on Michael Vick and the 8-4 Eagles as they travel to Big D to take on the 4-8 Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night in a heated NFC East showdown in front of the entire nation. Both teams weren’t expecting to be where they are now. The Cowboys were hoping to be getting ready for the post season and the Eagles were supposed to be in a rebuilding year. But neither was the case as now the Cowboys try to play spoiler with the Eagles fighting to stay in the NFC Playoff Hunt.

Last week, Philly had to come back from behind in the fourth quarter to come up with the 34-24 victory over the Houston Texans. As for Dallas they edged out 38-35 win over the Colts in overtime on a 38 yard game winning field goal by David Buehler. It will be a great matchup come Sunday and will be exciting to watch. Here is the breakdown.

News and Notes

Line: Eagles 3 ½ O/U 50

Overall Series: Cowboys lead 58-44

Streak- Cowboys won three straight

Reid vs Cowboys- 14-8 Regular Season

Last meeting — Jan. 9, 2010. NFC Wild Card Game — Eagles lose 34-14. In the first round of the playoffs and with the two teams playing against each other in back-to-back weeks, the Eagles came out sluggish. The Cowboys dominated the entire game, going on a 27-0 streak at one point, as they recorded their first playoff win since 1996. It would be Donovan McNabb’s last game as an Eagle with 230 yards, one TD and one interception with a QB rating of 68.5

Injury Report

EAGLES — Out: CB Asante Samuel (knee); RT Winston Justice (knee)

COWBOYS — Out: RB Marian Barber (calf); Quest: S Gerald Sensabaugh (thigh)

Tale of the Tape

EAGLES                                  COWBOYS

28.7 (2nd) Points Per Game 24.5 (10th)

400.7 (1st) Total Offense 365.9 (8th)

144.0 (5th) Rushing Offense 100.0 (24th)

256.7 (7th) Passing Offense 265.9 (5th)

23.4 (20th) Points Allowed 28.0 (31st)

326.1 (12th) Total Defense 361.9 (23rd)

103.0 (13th) Rushing Defense 107.8 (t-15th)

223.1 (17th) Passing Defense 254.1 (28th)

41.82 (11th) 3rd Down Offense % 42.48 (7th)

38.16 (16th) 3rd Down Defense % 43.23 (29th)

+15 (1st) Turnover Ratio -3 (t-20th)

Keys to Victory

  • Get to Kitna
  • Control the Dallas Rushing attack
  • Continue Success in Red zone

When Eagles Have the Ball…

The Eagles could quite possibly have the most explosive and dynamic offense in the National Football League. They are ranked first in the league in total yards and are in top five in both passing and rushing. Also, they’re second in scoring, putting up almost 29 points a game. They have been so efficient and effective with “Starship 7” under center, quarterback Michael Vick.

The Dallas defense is going to have troubles controlling Michael Vick on Sunday. His versatility and elusiveness is tough to handle and he can beat you in many different ways. Vick has played phenomenally this season not only making plays with his legs but his improve passing game from last season is amazing. He puts so much precision and accuracy on the football that he puts it where only his receivers can get it. That is the main reason for the tremendous ball security only throwing two interceptions all year and turning it over only three times. He leads all players in Pro Bowl fan votes and his name is also in the running for league’s MVP. He has put up the stats this season with 21 touchdowns and over 2700 yards of offense. He is the league’s top passer with 105.7 QB rating. Vick is the main reason for the Eagles success this season and his play has made everyone around him better.

WR Desean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have become one of the best receiver tandems in the NFL with over 1500 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns between the two. With their speed going up against a banged up secondary, as safety Gerald Sensabaugh could miss the game with a thigh injury. CB Orlando Scandrick is hurt but most likely will be a go and CB Mike Jenkins is sore from previous injury. It’s a match up that goes in Philly’s favor. The offensive line was the problem last season getting manhandled by the front seven. They need to play excellent football this week especially with RT Winston Justice out for the game. Backup King Dunlap will be protecting Vick’s blind side. Dallas has sacked the quarterback 22 times this season led by pass rushers Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer who combined have 12.5 sacks.

 

If Vick can get time to deliver the football to Jackson and Maclin and the other weapons like Jason Avant and Brent Celek, this passing game is going to have a field day. This offense has done a nice job to chip away and pick apart defenses in coverage and then find the speed in man to man to get the big play. Plus Dallas has given up 25 passing touchdowns this season and 40 total scores.

 

Running back Lesean Mccoy has been on a tear. He has eclipsed 100+ total yards in three consecutive games and three touchdowns. In his second year in the league he has amassed over 1100 yards of offense this season and nine scores. He is one of the upcoming threats in the NFL with his versatility to make plays on the ground and through the air. The Eagles normally struggle running against the 3-4 defense so expect Mccoy to be a big part in the passing game. They can’t abandon the running game though no matter how much Andy Reid likes to. That was the main problem last year. The holes along that defensive line for Dallas with only three down lineman, they can attack the middle of that line and pick up valuable yards to establish a rhythm and keep drives going. This offensive line has to make wholes because Cowboys have lineman that can make plays especially tackle Jay Ratliff who is known for stuffing the run. This Dallas defense has just too much speed off the edges with linebackers Demarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, and Keith Brooking. So they are going to have to attack the middle of that front seven and pick up yardage.

The success of this offense continues with red zone efficiency which they did a good job last week inside the 20 against Houston punching it in four out of six drives. Dallas is the second worst defense inside the 20 giving up 28 touchdowns in 42 trips, which is about 67%.

Overall this is a better Cowboys defense from earlier in the season. Whatever interim head coach Jason Garrett has done is working. This defense has played more physically and is making a lot more plays. They have forced 11 turnovers in the past four games more than what they had the first eight. It’s setting up their offense with short fields and executing. Also they had two turnovers returned for touchdowns last week so this defense is coming in with a lot of momentum and confidence. It’s going to be a good matchup to watch.

Edge: Eagles- The Eagles offense just has too much speed, especially in the passing game, going up against this banged up mediocre Dallas secondary. The Cowboys defense has played extremely well of late, forcing offenses to make mistakes but they haven’t faced a weapon like Michael Vick and expect him to have a big day spreading the ball around making plays.

When Eagles are on Defense…

This unit has struggled in the past few games just unable to stop opposing offenses. They are giving up an average of 24 points a game in a three game span (2-1) Luckily the Eagles offense has been able to make plays and put up points because this unit would not keep them in the game. They have continued to struggle in the red zone, letting Houston convert on all three trips last week. When you break it down, it’s not one thing that hurts them in the red zone. Just so much has gone wrong, whether it’s the lack of pressure they got, horrible tackling, or breakdown in coverage. They just struggle and until they get it fixed it’s going to be tough for them to win football games. And they have had troubles making big plays and forcing turnovers, only forcing two turnovers in as many games. A big reason has been the loss of their playmaker, CB Asante Samuel.

Samuel has missed the past two games and will miss this game since he has been ruled out and will not travel with the team. The secondary has been horrendous without Samuel only forcing one interception. They have given up six touchdowns and over 580 yards through the air. CB Joselio Hanson has been getting the start and with his lack of size and speed, QB Jon Kitna is going to expose that mismatch going up against 6’3” Roy Williams and Miles Austin. Trevard Lindley has been getting extensive playing time on the outside in nickel formations and his inexperience has shown. The rookie has been getting exposed not staying in his coverage and losing receivers. The Eagles’ lack of depth at CB has really cost them and the safeties haven’t helped too much. FS Nate Allen is showing the rookie mistakes in coverage and SS Quintin Mikell is on the decline looking slower and reacting late. But the big weapon that is going to have a big day and that is TE Jason Witten. It’s a complete mismatch for the Eagles with their secondary and linebackers covering Witten. His size and physicality makes him tough to bring down especially in open space. He will be tough to contain. But there is one key this defense has to do to win this football game, stop the run.

Since Jason Garrett took over as head coach, this Cowboys offense has been improved tremendously. They lost QB Tony Romo earlier in the year and without him, journey man Jon Kitna has filled in nicely, throwing for 11 TDs this season. But the reason he has been successful has been the balance attack in the offensive game plan and getting the running game involved. No matter who is in there they have been effective. RB Felix Jones and Tashard Choice have been getting a bulk of the carries the past couple of weeks and have been making plays. Choice ran for over 100 yards and a touchdown last week. If this front seven like LB Stewart Bradley, DT Antonio Dixon and others, control this running game and stop them on early downs it will be a big plus in the Eagles favor. The Eagles have only given up one 100 yard rusher this season and have improved a lot since the beginning of the season.

If the Eagles can control the run game they will put the Cowboys in long yardage situations and with this pass rush for the Eagles with DE Trent Cole and DE Brandon Graham and others the secondary can stay back in coverage. The key is the Eagles to get a pass rush on Kitna. His lack of mobility makes him a sitting duck back there in the pocket and this offensive line has struggled. A big matchup is Cole going up against LT Doug Free who hasn’t lived up to replacing Flozell Adams this year. This offensive line has giving up a total of 21 sacks, 14 on Kitna.

It’s going to be tough for the Eagles with their defensive problems to control this Cowboys offense. They did lose rookie Dez Bryant for the season but still just so many weapons and great coaching so far by Jason Garrett.

Edge: Cowboys — This Cowboys offense has been on fire averaging over 30 points a game since Garrett took over. The Eagles have improved on giving up yardage but still struggle giving up about 23 points a game. The loss of CB Asante Samuel is big and their secondary has been getting exposed with him out this year. Expect Kitna to have a big game and the Cowboys to put up points.

 

Intangibles: Even — The Cowboys are at home after a big win over the Colts. Under Garrett they are 3-1 and should be 4-0 if it wasn’t for a Roy Williams blunder. Also the Cowboys have nothing to really play for as they are eliminated from the playoffs. They will now and try to play spoiler maker on the Eagles. On the other hand Andy Reid when given 10 or more days rest is 18-1 with the only loss being in the Super Bowl. Cowboys have had the Eagles number winning three straight meetings.

 

Prediction: Cowboys win 31-27- The Eagles have a big stretch in the final four games all against NFC opponents. I won’t say they can’t sweep but I just don’t see it happening. The loss of Asante Samuel and Winston Justice is just too much to overcome in this game. It will be a shootout since both offenses have been playing well but I see the Cowboys coming up with that one big play that gives them the momentum to win the game. The Eagles were looking pass Dallas and to the Giants and it hurt them. They need to beat the Giants the following week if they want any chance of making the playoffs.

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